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Coronavirus Scams Targeting Businesses

Small businesses have always been a ripe target for scammers, but the Coronavirus has magnified that threat.

Scammers are trying to cash in on business owners’ financial worries and to exploit companies whose employees are juggling multiple jobs or working remotely. Impostor web sites, spearphishing scams and other schemes can drain thousands of dollars from an unsuspecting business. It only takes one mistake to expose sensitive data or trigger a financial loss.

Learning to recognize common scam techniques is one of the best ways to avoid fraud losses.

This roundup of current scams provides tips for helping you protect your business. It’s important that you share the information with your employees.

At the end of this post, you’ll find links to videos and tips to cybersecurity information for your business.

One more thing: If you encounter a scam, report it to the Cuyahoga County Department of Consumer Affairs. We’re all in this together.

Impostor web sites:

Scammers often set up fake sites to snare people who search the internet for help. For example, scammers have set up impostor Small Business Administration sites to trick business owners looking for government issued Paycheck Protection Program loans. Other scammers set up fake computer tech sites and tag common search terms lure victims.

Sophisticated phishing scams:

These emails or texts seem to come from your boss, a coworker, or a client. The sender may ask you to rush a payment or send them sensitive information, such as an account number, password or staff or client Social Security numbers. With employers operating remotely, these are a big danger for small businesses.

Some phishing scams target just one person in the organization, a technique called spearphishing. The impostors do enough homework on your company’s website or public social media posts to make you believe they’re a colleague. (They might say they just talked to one of your co-workers. One impostor reportedly complimented a scam target about how well his son’s sports team was doing.)

Counterfeit check scams:

Fake check scammers find a ruse to write a big check to you – for example, they may order your products or services and then send you a check for more than the amount you agreed on. When you deposit the check, they produce a reason you should send all or part of the money elsewhere right away. Scammers know that banks will make money from deposited checks available to you before the deposited check clears -- but when the counterfeit check is discovered, the bank takes those funds back. If you spend against the check, you either wind up paying with your own funds or overdrawing your account.

Fake order scams:

A fake order scam is a cousin to a counterfeit check scam, except it involves someone using a stolen identity to place a large order, and the payment is arranged through in-store credit. In one recent example, someone posing as the business manager at an out-of-state university scammed a store by arranging for store credit at a local business to purchase furniture for students. The goods were shipped to a third state – where they disappeared – before the loan fraud was discovered.

Robocall scams:

Robocallers target businesses with fake offers of government or business-to-business help to get through Coronavirus. Current examples include bogus calls offering you help getting a government small business loan, sell you protective gear, help adjusting your Google listing or assistance lowering existing credit payments. Ignore robocalls and any other call purporting to be from a government agency or company you don’t ordinarily business with.

Helpful resources for keeping your business safe:

Working Securely During COVID-19

StaySafeOnline.org’s COVID-19 security resources library

The Federal Trade Commission’s small business Coronavirus blog

Cybersecurity information from the National Institute of Standards and Technology

Where to report scams:

Report a scam to the Cuyahoga County Department of Consumer Affairs by calling 216-443-SCAM (7226) or using the Report-A-Scam form at consumeraffairs.cuyahogacounty.us

The Department of Consumer Affairs’ mission is to make sure people who live or shop in Cuyahoga County get what they pay for.